Lately my life has been going really well. I'm happier than I've ever been and things seem to just be working out for me. This past year I have had some really amazing opportunities and experiences. I feel so much peace and joy and I look forward to each day. It seems almost too good to be true. I almost hesitate to write that here because I worry that no sooner than I hit the post button the bottom will fall out and some horrible tragedy will occur.
I practice yoga on a regular basis and have done so for eight or more years. One thing I've noticed about my yoga practice is that it makes me more sensitive. At the beginning of each class as we meditate I try to think of the things that I am grateful for and set an intention for my class. On more than one occasion as I'm going over in my mind all that I'm grateful for I quickly end up at my greatest fear. The death of my daughter. One minute I'm going over in my mind all that I'm grateful for in my life and within seconds I'm planning my daughter's funeral right there on my yoga mat. I've gotten myself so worked up I've had tears streaming down my face the entire class. Luckily it's a hot yoga class and my tears are easily mistaken for sweat.
My favorite author Brene Brown calls this foreboding joy. She writes, "In a culture of deep scarcity of never feeling safe, certain, and sure enough-joy can feel like a setup. Scarcity and fear drive foreboding joy. We're afraid that the feeling of joy won't last, or that there won't be enough, or that the transition to disappointment (or whatever is in store for us next) will be too difficult. We've learned that giving in to joy is, at its best, setting us up for disappointment and, at worst, inviting disaster. And we struggle with the worthiness issue. Do we deserve our joy, given our inadequacies and imperfections? What about the starving children and the war-ravaged world. Who are we to be joyful?"
A very good question to ask, "Who are we to be joyful?" If we try to avoid the pain and heartache of life we also numb ourselves to the true joy of life. Joy is in the present moment the here and now. Joy is in the journey not the outcome. It's a difficult thing to balance. It's letting go of the past and not allowing ourselves to worry about the future. It's showing up for the people in our lives no matter what the future holds.
Brown says, "joy is the most vulnerable emotion we experience, and instead of using joy as a warning to start practicing disaster, we need to use it as a reminder to practice gratitude." So as we enter this season of thanksgiving let us all practice gratitude.
I wanted to share a fun way to practice gratitude that we use in my extended family. We call it the fishbowl. We have been doing it in my family since I was a little girl. We generally do it on birthdays or a special occasions for anyone in our family. So if it were my birthday I would be in the fishbowl. Everyone would go around the room and share one thing that they are grateful for and love about me. One thing usually turns into two or three. We are a competitive family and like to outdo each other. It is a great way to tell those we love what we love about them. It's one of our favorite family traditions from the little kids up to the grandparents. Let's be honest we all love to be loved and appreciated. The fishbowl is a great opportunity to actually say the things you love and are grateful for about each other face to face.
What are ways that you practice gratitude in your life and in your families? As we head into this holiday season let us all be more grateful. Let us give more than we expect and let us think of others more than ourselves. I would love to hear what you do to cultivate gratitude and joy in your lives.